I deal with a great many coaches over the course of a school year. Some of them have been here longer than I have and some are relative newcomers. But each is subjected to my own personal critique. Just as I expect certain things from the athletes I cover, that applies to the coaches also.
The one thing I can count on is that I am unbiased and form my opinions with no agenda in mind. I like to refer to myself as Switzerland, because it is my job to be neutral and I take that issue very seriously. Don’t think for one minute I don’t have a rooting interest in the games I attend, but that interest will never be vocalized.
Five years ago, Groton-Dunstable was searching for a new girls basketball coach. A couple of applicants asked me for recommendations, which I gladly gave because I thought they were both qualified. Neither got the position, which went to Mark Hennelly.
At that time I did not know Mark Hennelly and I only met him before the start of his first season. It only takes five seconds to understand what a great person he is. He is genuine and accomodating and is class all the way.
It took a little longer for me to sort out my feelings about him as a coach. My worry was his ability to come down with the hammer when needed. I had some reservations that he just might be too nice to be a great coach.
I was wrong.
Not about the nice part, but about his ability to become a great coach.
Mark has a passion for the game and expects his players to share that passion. He continues to work hard to improve as a coach and expects the same from his players. He runs a tough, no-nonsense practice with all the fundamental elements attached to it.
But what I like most about Mark Hennelly is that he expects everyone in the program to be personally responsible for their actions. I have dealt with many coaches who chose the easy route to avoid confrontations with players or parents, tossing away their core beliefs in the process. He understands that the buck stops with him and he’s willing to make the tough decisions.
Mark has won me over in many ways, but none more than with the ability to chastise a player who needed it, and patting the back of a player who deserved it. He is fair, which I believe is the most important thing a coach can be.
Mark has a handle on what is best for both the individual and the team. He understands that he and his team are representing Groton-Dunstable Regional High School. His teams are now piling up the wins, but complementing that is a winning team that understands the importance of sportsmanship. His teams are outstanding ambassadors for the school.
I don’t live in Groton or Dunstable, but if I did I can’t think of anything that would lend me more comfort than knowing my daughter was playing on a Mark Hennelly coached team.